This story is by Anna Hazelton and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
It’s Christmas morning, but few know it yet. At least in my household, anyway. My parents sleep soundly in their room. My older brothers are sleeping like the dead in their bedrooms. But my room is alive with anticipation and excitement. My five younger siblings and I have been awake for several hours, but we’re not allowed to wake up my parents until seven o’clock. It’s our tradition that the six of us all sleep in my room so that we can all go wake our parents together. It’s five o’clock now so we have two hours to kill. I want to sleep. I’m nineteen and need to rest but my younger siblings are caught up in the beauty of Christmas and want to experience its joys. I want to stay in my world of quiet and dreams until the craze of Christmas consumes our household, but they want to pull me into their world of restless, wakeful anticipation. I fight them, keeping my eyes closed, not speaking to them, but I still hear their voices. They discuss what they hope will be under the tree. They guess at what little treats my parents will slip into their stockings this year.
And all the while, I am silently begging them to be quiet and let me sleep. When I was a kid, I had no problem getting up and joining them in their antics. But I’m almost a grown-up now and I am having a hard time joining them. I do not want to give up my sleep, my dreams, but as I try to block out the noise and get some more sleep, a thought hits me. I am missing the point of Christmas. Christmas is a time when we can be with family. It is day when few people have obligations such as jobs and school. I have no papers due today or any finals to study for. So, what if I’m a little bit tired. It’s Christmas. I can take a nap later.
I open my eyes and in doing so leave behind my grown-up world and join them in the world of care-free kids anticipating Christmas. I slide off the bed and join them on the floor, to play card games from Uno to Blackjack. I’m not surprised when they trounce me every single time. I pull my collections of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Anderson and brush off the dust. Time to stop worrying about the gruesome stories in the news and read children’s stories once again. And when my brothers and sisters beg me to read them one of the stories I wrote in my creative writing class, I oblige. Listening to them laugh at my jokes and smile at the romance, lifts me spirits and makes me ever so glad I woke up.
The last two hours pass quickly and together we run to my parents’ room. As we pull them from their grown-up world, I am eager to show them Christmas the way I have rediscovered it. I want to pull them into the wonderland that is Christmas through a child’s perspective. As we unwrap presents, I see the worries leaving their eyes. I see joy lighting their faces. I watch their grown-up world mesh with the world of their children.
All through the day, we play together: grown-ups and children. It feels good to let the weight of school slide off my shoulders completely, good to not have to worry about being late for work. I feel like a kid again. I dance with my younger brothers and sisters in the kitchen, something I am normally way to grow up to do. I sing at the top of my lungs not caring if I sound good. Not having to worry about making good grades makes my heart feel light. Christmas is this one day a year I have nothing to do and yet so often I sit around worrying about when school starts back again, how difficult my classes will be and so on and so forth. I waste Christmas was too much. But not today. I eat a Christmas cookie, or maybe two or three, and don’t care about the calories. I play games with my siblings that normally I would never play. I spend time with them, instead of holing up in my room.
I never do get my nap and I don’t care. At the end of the day, yes, I’m exhausted. But I don’t want those extra hours of sleep. As I slide into my bed at night again, this time with an empty silent room around me, I long to rewind the day. I long to live it over and over again. I want to relive the joy on my eight-year-old brother’s face when he opens the new guitar I bought him. I want to see my mom’s eyes light up when she opens her present and finds a gorgeous wooden jewelry box etched with the names of her nine children. I want to hear my dad’s laughter as he opens his present to find a duffle bag three times larger than the one he wanted and then smile as we hand him another duffle bag, this one the right size. I want to laugh again as I explain I read the measurements wrong.
Some people believe that Christmas is meant for children. They believe it is about the presents. Some people say it can only be for the children and the young at heart. But today I have learned that Christmas is not for one set of people but that Christmas for families: young and old together, rejoicing and celebrating, worry free.